Some of Mexico’s best cenotes are located within a stone’s throw of Tulum and Coba. You can easily reach them by public transport (colectivo minivans) or even by bike. But if you want to hit up a few cenotes in one day, hiring a car is the best option.

Cenotes are sinkholes you can swim in, filled with pristine water that filters through limestone rock. The mineral-rich water comes in a kaleidoscope of glowing blues and greens, and is refreshingly cool on Tulum’s hot and humid days. The Maya once considered cenotes as the gateway to the underworld. We explain the fascinating history of cenotes and how they were formed here.

There are several types of cenotes:

  • Completely closed cenotes – you swim in underground caverns while gazing at dripping stalactites, roots and vines. Swimming in one is a unique and eerie experience.
  • Partly closed cenotes – with a touch of sun, the water starts to glows and you get great light effects for photos.
  • Fully open cenotes – with direct sun and warmer water, you get amazing visibility and, generally, more marine life and vegetation to gawk at while snorkeling.

Each cenote type is unique, and everyone has their favorite for different reasons; whether it be for adventurous jumping platforms, great snorkeling or diving, the fact that there are no other tourists, or the out-of-this-world visuals. No cenote checks all of these boxes – for example, it’s hard to escape crowds at the most visually stunning cenotes – but you can easily check two or three highlights on this list at each cenote. You can also plan your visits so you get fewer crowds (see the section: tips for visiting cenotes).

The Best Cenotes in Tulum

best cenote tulum swimming Best cenotes in Tulum for swimming:

  • Sac Atun
  • Gran Cenote
  • Cenote Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multum-Ha

best cenote tulum snorkel Best cenotes in Tulum for snorkeling:

  • Sac Actun / Pet Cemetery
  • Gran Cenote
  • Dos Ojos
  • Carwash Cenote

best cenotes tulum diving Best cenotes in Tulum for diving:

  • Dos Ojos Cenote / El Pit Cenote
  • Pet Cemetery Cenote
  • Angelita Cenote

best cenotes tulum jumping Best cenotes in Tulum for jumping:

  • Calavera Cenote
  • Tankah Ecological Park

best cenotes tulum kids families Best cenotes in Tulum for families and kids:

  • Cenote Zacil-ha
  • Cenote Tankah / Casa / Manati
  • Caleta Tankah

Gran Cenote in Tulum

This is one of the most popular cenotes near Tulum, conveniently located on the road to the Coba ruins. It’s the perfect cool off after some sweaty sightseeing. Sure, you’ll compete with tourists – but some say it’s worth it regardless, with many caverns and crystal turquoise water to explore. Going at the beginning (8am) or before the end of the day (5pm) can mean less people.

Beginner snorkelers have it easy with a white sandy bottom, small fish, and turtles, while experienced swimmers and divers can go farther into the cavern systems to swim under hanging stalactites (and resident bats). The name suggests that it’s just one ‘huge cenote,’ but there are several entrances you can find by wandering through dense jungle on wooden walkways. You can arrange cave and tunnel dives here as well.

It’s kid-friendly, although bring your own snacks. There are plenty of facilities (showers, lockers, change rooms). You can easily spend a few hours here. From January to February you might even spot a toucan.

Best cenote in Tulum for: swimming and snorkeling
Quintana Roo Carretera 109, Tulum–Coba, 8am–5pm, 180 MXN

Sac Actun Cenote

This cenote is at the heart of the world’s longest underground river Sac Actun (The White Cave), which stretches for 347 km under the Yucatan Peninsula and is fed by almost 250 cenotes. As the name suggests, the rock formations in this cenote are white.

It is completely underground, and you will swim through multiple cenotes that are connected by a cave system. Without sunlight, the water can be fresh.

You’ll find it along the same road as Dos Ojos. It is 22km from Tulum, but also easily reached by Playa del Carmen. It’s one of the more expensive cenotes because the fee includes a life jacket, snorkel and a mandatory guide, who explains a bit about Maya culture, the geography and the flora and fauna. They also rent flashlights (200 pesos), which helps taking photos, but you could also buy one before arriving.

Best cenote in Tulum for: snorkeling
Dos Ojos; Carretera Federal Cancun–Tulum Km. 124, between Akumal and Tulum
Website, 9am–5pm, 450 MXN, partly closed cenote

Pet Cemetery Cenote

Deeper into the San Actun complex, you will find the morbidly named Pet Cemetery Cenote. The name comes from the various animal skeletons once found there, including the fossilized remains of an extinct prehistoric camel. Today you can still spot the odd bone on a snorkeling tour, the best way to explore the cenote.

The cenote is mostly shallow, around 3m on average, but it is full of spectacular rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It can only be visited on a tour. You enter via Dos Ojos, but don’t buy your ticket there; you get it at the entrance to Pet Cemetery. Experienced cave divers come here to explore the Blue Abyss, a challenging but rewarding dive.

Best cenote in Tulum for: snorkeling and advanced diving
Website, Look for Dos Ojos sign, 8am–5pm, 450 MXN, closed cenote

Parque Dos Ojos

Swimming under stalactites is a rousing experience. There are five cenotes to choose from, so you have options to escape the crowds; the newer addition, Los Monos, is getting great reviews, so get in before it gets packed. The cenote of the same name, Dos Ojos Cenote, is the most popular in the park and can get cramped.

The true secret of the Dos Ojos Cenote is left to scuba divers, who have miles of cavern to explore. In 2018, it was discovered that this cenote also connects to the world’s largest underwater cave system, along with cenote Sac Actun. It was full of ancient artifacts (check it out here) and it also featured in the film Journey Into Amazing Caves.

The name “Two Eyes” refers to the cenote’s two pools – one clear for snorkeling, the other dark and cavernous. The pools are connected underground by a long cavern, occasionally a tight fit. You dive in the dark, navigating your buoyancy between the stalactites and stalagmites, while spotting the reflective air bubbles pressed against the cave roof. A truly unique diving experience that makes the must-do list of many divers. The two main lines are the ‘Barbie line’ and the smaller, darker ‘Bat Cave line’.

You can rent diving and snorkeling equipment at the cenote, or take a snorkeling tour with everything included, which takes you to a cave you can’t explore alone (600 pesos). Bring a waterproof torch if you have one. If you take a mini bus, ask to be dropped off at the cenote. You can also explore wall paintings and some small ruins at Xel Há nearby.

This cenote complex is an easy 15-minute drive from Tulum and 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen, with plenty of amenities.

More on the four other cenotes:

  • Los Monos – a fully enclosed cenote with a mandatory tour; you can swim and stand among the dripping collection of thin stalactites, worthy of a social media post. It’s the most expensive (700 pesos), but as the new addition it tends to be less crowded.
  • Nicte Ha – an open cenote full of water lilies, with a small cave overhang (200 pesos).
  • Jaguar – an open pool, with a zipline and jumping platforms (250 pesos).
  • El Pit – only for advanced divers (read about it in our article on the best cenotes for diving).

Best cenote in Tulum for: diving, snorkeling and swimming
Carretera Federal Cancun-Tulum Km. 124, between Akumal and Tulum
Website, 8am–5pm, 350 MXN (for Dos Ojos Cenote)

Calavera in Tulum

This cozy cenote translates to ‘skull’ – look for one on the sign – which comes from the three holes in the roof that give the impression of swimming inside a skull. It is also known as the Temple of Doom, which some say comes from the bones and Maya ceramics that you can see while diving, although several stories exist. It’s one of the closet cenotes to Tulum – around 3km – although it’s not as well-known so it’s got a local vibe. Gran Cenote is also close, around 2km away.

From the top this cenote looks small, but once you’re in, it opens up into a sizeable cavern. There is no shallow area to stand, but there are wooden stairs and a rope swing to hang off, or you can rent life-vests. It’s great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and jumping several meters – and then drying off on the rock platform around it with a picnic or a few drinks.

The water looks bluest at midday, although it can get crowded fast with just a few small groups. If you choose to jump through the smaller holes, take care to not hit your head on the rock.

Long caverns stretch under the jungle for specialized divers only; most dive lines run around the perimeter of cenote’s main body at around 16m/53ft.

Best cenote in Tulum for: jumping and swimming
Quintana Roo 109, Tulum–Coba
Facebook, 9am–4pm, 100 MXN, partly closed cenote

Cenote Choo-Ha near Coba

There are three cenotes located in the same complex, near the Coba ruins. They can all be visited in half a day: Cenote Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multum-Ha.

Some say Tamcach-Ha (translated as “deep water”) is their favorite, with the added thrill of jumping 10m; Cenote Choo-Ha (meaning “dripping water”) is known for its interesting rock formations and shallow water; Multum-Ha is the deepest for general swimming. Others recommend seeing all three for their unique differences. Prices vary between tourists (55–150MXN); usually around 100 MXN per cenote. As all three cenotes are underground, the water is fresh. Some tours stop at these cenotes and it can get busy, but if you time it right – early, while the tours are on lunch, or late afternoon – you might even have them to yourself.

At Choo-Ha, descending through a tiny hole in the ground is the first step to this adventure. Suddenly, it opens up to a giant cavern, full of interesting rock formations and shallow crystal blue water. You’ll find yourself standing on an island in the middle of a completely closed underground cavern. It’s shallow and ideal for kids. It’s not much of a swim for adults, but worthy of a photoshoot.

Best cenote in Tulum for: photos, kids
Chanchen 1, Cobá, 8am–8pm, 100 MXN
, underground cenote

Cenote Tamcach-Ha

From the parking lot of Choo-Ha, you take another dirt road to reach this underground cenote. Go down the steep spiral staircase and you’ll find yourself in a perfectly circular underground cenote.

There are two platforms off the staircase at about 10m (30ft) and 5m (15ft) from which you can jump, plus a wooden platform at water level to leave your things. The water is deep, and the ceiling is high and spacious – and you might spot the odd fish and bat as well.

Although there are not as many rock formations as in Choo-Ha, the smooth circular walls are unique and take great photos from the top of the stairs. Some report difficulties breathing from lack of oxygen, more so in the hotter months.

Best cenote in Tulum for: jumping and swimming
Chanchen 1, Cobá
, 8am–8pm, 100 MXN, underground cenote

Cenote Multum-Ha

Cenote Multum-Ha is farther in the jungle than Cenotes Tamcach-Ha and Choo-Ha, which can sometimes mean less visitors. The downward spiral staircase is narrower – claustrophobes may freak out a bit – but the cenote underneath is worth it.

A huge circular cavern awaits, with exceptionally clear water and small black catfish. It is a very deep cenote, but the transparency makes it seem less so. There are ropes to hold when you get tired of swimming.

The name translates to “hill of stones in water,” and is the newer addition opened to the public. It is better for snorkeling than the other three cenotes. There is a small hole in the ceiling that beams down and lights up the water at certain times of the day.

Best cenote in Tulum for: swimming and snorkeling
Chanchen 1, Cobá, 8am–8pm, 100 MXN
, closed underground cenote

Aktun Ha / Carwash Cenote

There’s no secret to how this cenote was named: it was once used to wash taxis. This cenote looks like a large open pond, with water lilies and fish to entertain snorkelers. You may be lucky enough to spot a tiny crocodile or turtles. It’s not the most spectacular cenote, but it tends to be less crowded and great for a peaceful cooldown. If there are crowds, you can walk around the cenote to find a special chill spot away from the main platform.

In summer, light effects play off the blooming algae, which appears as a thick orange-green layer on the surface; the light filters through to create a spooky and cloudy emerald green. Underneath, it’s crystal clear down to a depth of 16m/53ft, with tree branches, roots and vegetation for plenty of photo opportunities. Cave divers can also access the Room of Tears.

It’s located on the road to Coba, around 15 minutes outside of Tulum. It’s easily combined with a trip to Calavera Cenote. As an open cenote, if it rains, the water is not as clear.

Best cenote in Tulum for: swimming and snorkeling
Carretera coba Km. 8
, Tulum
Facebook, 9am–5pm, 50 MXN, open cenote

Cenote Zacil-ha

The cenote is small but the surrounding area is huge, with tables, chairs, shady palapas and lots of trees. It’s a great spot for families to spend the whole day eating, swimming, and jumping into the cenote – there is even a mini zipline and some small pools. There’s also a bar, food, and some sunbeds, which can make it feel commercial but that’s the price of creature comforts.

It gets crowded between 11am and 4pm – with tours, and on weekends, with locals alike – so arrive early if you want it to yourself. They usually let one person take a peek before you commit to pay the entrance fee.

They also have wooden cabins, so you can sleep there and be the first ones in the cenote.

Best cenote in Tulum for: families, jumping, spending the day
Coba Km. 8, México 180D

Facebook, 10am–5.30pm, 80 MXN, open cenote

Cenote Casa / Manati / Tankah

When the sun’s out, you can see right to the bottom of this emerald green cenote, known by three names. Rather than being a round swimming hole, like many cenotes, it’s a long canal that takes you on a journey through mangroves and jungle. The mangrove roots act as nurseries for newly hatched fish and, combined with a series of small natural caves, it’s a great snorkeling experience. There’s also a tiny resident crocodile, who hangs in one area for those who are interested in taking a peek.

You can see more of the ‘Tankah Ecological Park’ via a tour, where you can visit three more cenotes, jump off high ledges, whiz down three ziplines, canoe, visit the local Maya community, and eat a lunch prepared by the locals.

Cenote Tankah also connects the long underwater cave system Nohoch Na Chich to the ocean, meaning you can see both fresh and salt water fish. It’s a good dive spot for beginners to practice. You can also see a halocline and light effects, plus swim through passages and cracks in the limestone rock.

It may not give that ‘unique cenote experience’ like a closed cavern or underground cenote, but when there’s a heap of seaweed at the Tulum beaches, this clear cenote is just a skip across the road. You can also rent kayaks. It’s about 10km north of Tulum, or around a 40-minute drive from Playa del Carmen.

Best cenote in Tulum for: swimming, snorkeling, beginner divers
Carretera Cancun–Tulum Km. 246, Tankah Mz. 3
Facebook, 9am–5pm, 120 MXN
, open cenote

Caleta Tankah

If you’re torn between the beach and a cenote, then Caleta Tankah gives you both: You can kickback at their beachfront restaurant and beach chairs on one side, then take a jungle trail to find a small cenote on the other side. There’s a small semi-protected cove which is also fed by fresh cenote water, meaning it sometimes avoids the wads of seaweed that can plague Tulum’s beaches. Turtles also visit this beach between May and November.

The cenote is very small but not usually busy. On your way there, you might spot some small ruins in the jungle; look for clusters of rocks. Here was once the original town of Tulum, known as Zamá Xamanzamá. It dates back to 150BC, much older than Tulum. From around the 12th century, the Maya moved the ceremonial grounds to the protected clifftop which we today know as Tulum ruins. You will also spot some modern Maya sculptures.

With the purchase of a bracelet (around 150 MXN), you can access all of their facilities. It’s around 5km north of Tulum; you’ll see a sign on the main highway, just next to Dreams Tulum resort, not to be confused with Cenote Tankah which is at the next beach, Tankah Bay.

Best cenote in Tulum for: swimming, beach access
Carretera Federal Km. 307, Tulum
Website, 9am–5pm (guests can stay till 6pm)
, 150 MXN, open cenote